‘Project Whip’ takes down four in fraud, identity theft operation

‘Project Whip’ takes down four in fraud, identity theft operation

It’s a fraud and identity theft case that you might be more accustomed to seeing on TV. 

Winnipeg police say they began receiving several reports of used luxury vehicles that were being bought using forged identities in the summer of 2016. During a two-month stint, eight vehicles were bought from dealerships in the city with a combined value of $520,000. That investigation is still ongoing. 

According to police, two of the vehicles had been marked for overseas shipment before being recovered in a shipping container in the Port of Montreal. 

“This led investigators to become aware of this scheme and become more focused on it,” Const. Jay Murray told reporters on Thursday. 

Later that year, three more vehicles were bought through similar means in October and December, leading members of the Financial Crime Unit to create Project Whip, which they said is a response to “what was now a very concerning fraud trend.” 

Murray said investigators then began to develop relationships with auto dealerships that were at a high risk of being targeted.

Police say the fraudsters were opening bank accounts outside of the province, using the same pieces of forged ID they used to purchase the vehicles. 

“They’d come into contact with fake driver’s licenses or fake employment records and they’d use that to finance these vehicles and obtain the vehicles that way,” Murray said. 

The forged documents were based on real people. 

Police were able to recover three vehicles, a 2016 Chrysler 200, a 2012 Mercedes Benz C63 and a 2012 Range Rover, two of which were in Winnipeg and the other in the RM of Ritchot. 

“It’s not an issue unique to Winnipeg… it happens all over Canada,” Murray said. “We’re fortunate enough to have a financial crime unit that’s attempted to at least get ahead of this issue and focus on it.” 

Murray said the investigation was very complicated. 

“That’s one of the reasons it’s taken a year-and-a-half to complete,” he said. “You have a number of levels of complexity. You have the banks that are dealt with out of province, out of province licences that are manipulated or created and you take that together and now they come to Winnipeg to try to deal with these auto dealerships and obtain these vehicles.” 

Police have brought several charges against four men in relation to the three vehicles they recovered, several of which were arrested on Jan. 5 at a home on Red Oak Drive. 

Bemy Solow Nendaka, 31, Amadou Diaby, 26, both from Winnipeg and Kyle George Andrysiak, 22, from Calgary have each been charged with participating in a criminal organization, using forged documents, fraud over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. 

Diaby and Andrysiak have also been charged with identity theft. 

Sekou Amadou Dicko, 48, from Winnipeg has been charged with possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and four counts of possession identity documents. 

Police say the four men charged were not responsible for the initial eight vehicles. 

Police came forward with the investigation on Thursday after the last person was arrested over the weekend. 

sbilleck@postmedia.com

Twitter: @scottbilleck 

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